SCORE: LRT = 1, MPPA = 0

When you attend most ballgames and look up at the scoreboard you would think that team that has more points is usually winning. Well, typically this is true…but my topic today is no ordinary ballgame. No…it involves two very serious matters chock full of politics and woven deeply with emotions.

This past weekend the new Light Rail Transit (LRT) system running in the Twin Cities experienced its first fatality. In just a short three months of operation, the controversial Hiawatha Line system has been running, for the most part, problem free. In fact, if you’ve driven down the Hiawatha corridor towards Minneapolis you would wonder how an accident could even occur with all the lights, stop arms and bells that ring out to announce an approaching rail car.

But on Saturday, September 25th, an elderly gentleman got confused and crossed with his car in front of a high speed train killing him. Click here to read more. That wasn’t supposed to happen. The system had all the necessary safeguards in place to prevent such deadly potential. The experts all agreed this transit system was state-of-the-art and could serve as a model around the country for safety design.


On May 28, 2003, the Minnesota Personal Protection Act (MPPA) went into effect essentially turning Minnesota into a “shall issue” state from its previous “may issue” handling of gun permit applicants. In a nutshell, this new handgun law took the discretionary powers away from the local Chief of Police or Sheriff and made it mandatory for them to issue “conceal carry” permits to applicants, unless they could demonstrate a compelling reason why the applicant should not have a gun.

As soon as the new law went into effect thousands flocked to their local sheriffs to apply for one of these new coveted permits. In fact, I was one of those sportsmen who felt spending $100 was a small price to pay to be granted the special privileges the new law allowed. I took the necessary gun handling course, had my range time, and passed all the background checks. By the end of July 2003 I was granted my permit to carry.

Yet, ever since this issue passed on the floor of the legislature it has been a lighting rod of controversy. The dire predictions of a lawless state and shootouts in the Metrodome had many casual observers convinced that this had to be one of the stupidest laws ever to make it on the books. Their prediction of 90,000 new permit holders after the first year meant 90,000 more guns to worry about on our streets…in our stores…and, oh my gosh, in our houses of worship. See also. Argh….

Well…even as of today, as I write this, the controversy rages on with a district court judge striking down the new law on a technicality of legislative procedure. Still, these facts remain:

□ Roughly one-third of the anticipated applicants actually applied.
□ The issue has been largely out of the news…at least to the extent of any negative occurrences with permit holders.

Did you read that last point? A full 16-months after the new law went into effect there has yet to be an incident with a permit holder (justified, or not) where a death has occurred. Simply unbelievable. Where are all the pundits who predicted our hospitals would be filled with innocent victims? Where are all the folks who said our state has lost its “Minnesota Nice” and would now be branded negatively with stories of carnage? Well, they sure as hell aren’t stepping up to admit they were wrong.

Certainly this game is not over and I do not expect the score to forever be a shut-out. Accidents WILL happen and that is the unfortunate thing about life. Still, I think its important to emphasize there’s no public outrage and crying about LRT killing an innocent victim. But I’ll grant you this one little prediction…the first time there’s a death somehow tied to the MPPA, the public scrutiny and outcry will be against ALL GUN OWNERS…and somehow this sportsman doesn’t feel that will be fair. Unfortunately, this is a game where there are no referees to call foul when one side plays by different rules than the other.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

They’re Back!!! Those Damn Asian Beetles

They’re creepy…they’re crawly…but most of all they are a pain in the @$$. What else could it be other than those pesky Asian beetles (not to be mistaken with common lady bugs—which they look quite similar to).

It must have been about four years ago that life in southern Minnesota has forever changed. Suddenly, when the warmer temps of summer start giving way to the cooler nights of fall…they begin to appear in large numbers crawling all over the outside of the house. And it doesn’t matter where you live – the country or the city. The infestation can be severe and last ALL winter long. Eventually those bugs crawling on the outside of the house will find a way INSIDE the structure to spend the entire winter with you.

So how exactly did these beetles get here? Good question. It seems that back in the late ‘70s the U.S. government introduced them to help with the growing soybean aphid problem. You see, the Asian beetle is a voracious forager of aphids eating thousands daily. Aphids themselves are destructive pests as they suck the life-blood right out of the soybean plant eventually lowering crop yields. In fact, the farm community has growing concerns that out-of-control aphids could eventually disrupt the U.S. soybean growing region. Certainly, this is a serious problem with definite economic impact to the agricultural community. Learn more by clicking here.

So, there are too many aphids…and now, the primary predator of the aphids (the Asian beetle) can hardly keep up with this population explosion. Is there any wonder why one problem in nature somehow usually begets other problems?

The past two years I have dealt with the infestation by hiring a professional exterminator. In early September he spends about an hour spraying inside and outside of the house leaving a killing agent that has been quite effective. It’s not something I want to do…but it does allow for a much more pleasant winter life indoors.

Recently, however, I’ve been intrigued by the ingenuity of a fellow Minnesotan who claims to have all the answers to our Asian beetle problems. In fact, he’s written a book and has a web site promoting that book. Check it out by clicking here.

So, how are things so far this year? Well, signs have been promising that maybe this year we will have a natural reprieve from this perennial nuisance. You see, due to cooler than normal weather the soybean aphids have been greatly reduced this summer. Could it be that the Asian beetle population will also be self-limiting due to a limited food source? This homeowner sure hopes so.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

Minnesota DNR…Stop Messing With My Traditions!!

I hate change…and the older I get the more disdain I have for the Minnesota DNR when they go and change one of my hunting or fishing seasons in some manner. Call me a traditionalist, but I like my outdoor experiences to feel much the same from year to year.

Today marks the opening of the Minnesota duck hunting season in our great state and, of course, there is a change. I believe for the first time ever the shooting begins promptly at 9am. for opening morning. What’s with that? A 9am start? The only hunting season that is supposed to begin at 9am is for pheasants…and now opening morning for the waterfowl season has moved from noon to a 9am opener. Was this really necessary?

You see, for years and years the opening day of the Minnesota duck season commenced promptly at noon on the first day of the season only (the duration of the season would open each day at one-half hour before sunrise). The reasoning here was that a later start on the first day would give the local ducks a better chance to get used to all the commotion of hunters, dogs and their boats that were suddenly invading the marshlands. It was purely an effort to give ducks a fair chance to get used to these new disruptions…and hunters, well, shall we say a chance to get all of the kinks out of their rusty hunting techniques…and to do so in daylight. Certainly it was far better for hunters to set up their spread and get ready during daylight hours on opening day than in the darkness of pre-dawn surrounded by potentially deadly water.

But of course, the DNR succumbed to the pressure of a group of hunters who thought they have a better way. Biologically speaking, it probably makes no difference when the first gun fires on the opener. What it comes down to is a tradition broken only for the sake of doing something new.

I’m still frustrated about when the waterfowl season opens on the calendar. It used to be that waterfowl season ALWAYS opened on the first Saturday of October in Minnesota. Then goose populations got out of control and there was early goose seasons…and, I guess, the next logical step was to creep the duck season earlier, too. I understand the DNR works within framework established by the Feds. And I understand that when you are given “extra” days for your season it makes more sense to allocate them early…rather than later in the fall when cold temps might have pushed most ducks south. But there’s just something that seems wrong to me about hunting ducks in September. Hell, the leaves haven’t even turned color yet and the corn fields are still standing mostly sporting their summer green colors. Duck hunting is a fall activity and it ought to look like fall when you are out wearing your brown marshland camo.

Indeed, traditions no longer seem to be a sacred cow with the powers to be at the Minnesota DNR. And don’t even get me started on how they have messed up my traditions when it comes to deer hunting. Sure, the wildlife managers play with their population models and must continually come up with new systems in an effort to reach desired harvest levels. But I will save this rant for another month when the eve of the deer opener is much closer.

I view the activity of hunting to be a pure experience rich in tradition. When I go out on opening morning…I want that same feel that my father and uncles might have experienced 40 years ago. But each time change takes place it somehow deteriorates the experience in my mind. Tradition is what reaches across the generations and makes the outdoors such a wonderful place to connect with the past. Oh sure, I understand that at times there may be good reasons to make changes…whether it be for safety…or even a newly recognized wildlife management purpose.

Still, I contend that every time there’s a change in some hunting or fishing tradition that action should not be taken lightly by us sportsmen. Change should only occur when it has a fundamental purpose paramount to the outdoor tradition it attempts to destroy.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.